The SD Surf (home) vs Strikers (away) rematch is coming up this weekend, and, heads-up upfront, this is a longer post. Here’s the predict: SD Surf 3 vs Strikers 2. Here’s why: 1) The ’05 San Diego Surf is the #1 team in the country for a reason. They average more than 4 goals scored per game while only allowing an average allowing about one goal per game. A lot of this has to do with their striker – MMG - who is averaging almost two goals per game. Simply put, he’s a handful and the phrase, “physically imposing”, is an understatement. Unless the Strikers pull down their 05 who almost always is now playing with the ’04s, am not sure what there is to be done. In the last match between the SD Surf and the Strikers, MMG only went for one goal late in the game but three other SD Surf players scored earlier. This is the SD Surf offensive game plan. Either their opponent focuses on stopping MMG, and a variety of other SD Surf players take advantage or they play MMG heads-up and he goes for two to three goals. The one game that the SD Surf did not win this year – a tie vs LAGSD – MMG was not at the match. Add to this, an SD Surf defense that is good but not great in the 1st half but is outstanding/shutdown in the 2nd half, and this formula has led to SD Surf's deserved dominance over the San Diego group. 2) The Strikers play about six times worse away than they do at home. Was surprised by this at first glance, particularly given that away game travel for the Strikers is not that significant. The Strikers seem to have a problem with consistency with slow starts to both last year’s season and this year’s season, and the issue with away games this year. For a team that won the National Championship two years ago, and has remained largely intact, the inconsistency is curious. On the other side, the SD Surf are actually one of the few teams this year that play worse at home. However, it’s not that much worse and the SD Surf are pretty consistent on both sides of the ball with only a small drop in offensive effectiveness when playing at home. The Elephant in the Room At the end of February, the San Diego Surf coach – Benoit David – announced that he was leaving the club for LAFC. Word on this forum is that the coach left immediately and is no longer coaching with the SD Surf. Understandable. Word on this forum is also that several SD Surf players will be going to go to LAFC after the end of the season. (USSDA rules prohibit players from leaving a team without club permission before the end of the season). Could see the SD Surf 04 midfielder - ER - leaving for LAFC (BD coached both the 05s and the 04s for SD Surf), but logistically, unless families move, it would be a challenge for the 05 SD Surf players to get from SD to LA for practice, so not sure how likely it is for 05 SD Surf players to leave. And LAFC doesn’t have many holes to fill. We’ll see. But this idea could also be weighing on a SD Surf team who have been together for some time, are still only 13 and 14 years old, and will likely be affected by their coach’s departure, and the idea of other players leaving, this weekend and for the season. This game against the Strikers will be the SD Surf’s second game back since the announcement. This last weekend was SD Surf’s game after BD left, and they significantly underperformed. After beating OC Surf over two games by a combined 11-2 margin, they allowed OC Surf to score three in the first half. SD Surf D then tightened up and MMG scored one for the win in the 2nd half, but it was SD Surf’s second worst performance of the year. Here’s keys to the game: 1) Can the Strikers keep SD Surf’s MMG under control? It’s not really a question of if MMG will score but when. There’s the initial shock and awe at the beginning of the game and MMG will score in the first ten minutes. And then there’s the second where MMG has scored almost 70% of his goals. And in the 2nd half, there’s the last ten minutes, where MMG has scored almost 1/3 of his goals. Straight up, MMG has eventually overwhelmed every u14 defender that goes up against him, and while SD Surf generally plays good, build-up soccer they don’t have a problem, -if gets difficult moving the ball – just sending it over the top to MMG to give him more opportunities. 2) Can the Strikers keep the rest of SD Surf’s offense under control while trying to contain MMG? This is an more interesting question. SD Surf players w/o the initials MMG are - by design - a threat to score fairly consistently throughout the game. By way of background, after SD Surf played LAFC the first time last year, they added two forwards, and then added another forward this year, all of whom are very good soccer players in their own right. The player added this year may be out however, and hasn’t played since SD Surf’s last 2018 game in November. These added players gave SD Surf an additional dimension which forces other teams to pay a price if they get too focused on MMG. And these guys will score at any point during the game. Plus, SD Surf has a “midfielder” - XG - who is smart, cagey and very opportunistic. “Midfielder” is in quotes because this player – while he mostly plays mid – has played all over the field and is a threat to score regardless his starting spot. He’s not in the top 1% athletically or technically but is very smart about how he plays his soccer, and is SD Surf’s #2 goal scorer. 3) How many goals can the Strikers get in the first half? More than 80% of the goals allowed by the SD Surf have been allowed in the first half. Put another way, SD Surf has outscored San Diego group opponents 23 to 2 in the second half. So, net net, the 1st half is the Strikers’ window to put goals on the board. 4) But what about what the Strikers can do? If the Strikers don't have good answer to #1 thru #3 above, it won't matter. Honestly, am rooting for the Strikers to give SD Surf some competition because the SD group hasn't done that this year, but the numbers just don't add-up. The intangible is the SD Surf coach departure so it will be interesting to see how the SD Surf handle it, and if the Strikers can take advantage of an opponent who may be less than focused this weekend. _____ Best of luck to both teams!